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Cueto Goes 7 in Reds’ 'Complete Game'

Not long ago I was in college and, like all students, time had no meaning to me. Given two months to complete a research paper, I would often begin working on it the week before the due date, if not the day before. Breakfast began whenever I staggered from my bed to the dining hall, and would sometimes carry over seamlessly into lunch (depending on the caliber of conversation and the day's specials). And while time seemed to practically vanish into thin air on Friday and Saturday nights (If you can't remember it, it never really happened!), it never moved slower than during my 1:30 "Intro to Art History" class. That one may as well have been called "Fundamentals of the Food Coma."

In that day and age, a 10:00 PM first pitch would have fit perfectly into my schedule. Unfortunately, ever since graduation my bedtime has dropped at nearly as frightening a rate as my alcohol tolerance. And while some aspects of college carry over to the working world (I should probably start on that report), there is little flexibility when it comes to actually showing up to work on time. Needless to say, I was PUMPED that yesterday's game started at 3:30, as the previous two games had really done a number on my REM cycle. Who knew watching four innings of baseball and then hitting the sack could be so exhausting?

Though my excitement regarding yesterday's game was tempered slightly by the MLB Network's constant live look-ins at Stephen Strasburg (I'll admit, the kid's got skills), I came away happy. Not only had the Reds just completed a three-game sweep of the A's, they turned a potentially disastrous road trip into an average one. And as all Reds fans know, a .500 record on the West Coast is cause for celebration. I wouldn't be surprised if Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory is planning the parade as we speak.

And while yesterdays win sealed a series sweep of the A's (and, in doing so, went a long way in proving the mettle of these 2010 Reds), I was more impressed by the way in which the game was won. As I am sure most Reds fans did, I spent a lot of time this past off-season analyzing what it would take for the Reds to put a winner on the field in 2010. I was convinced that the rotation would be consistently strong, that the bullpen would again be airtight, and that the offense would come along enough to keep us in ballgames and win us a few close ones. If you had told me then that Nick Masset would have a 7-something ERA I would have been shocked. If you told me the Reds would have the NL's best offense, I would have choked on my food. And if you were to tell me that Cueto would be brilliant at times but erratic, well…that I would have believed. However, if you would have asked anyone in Reds nation what the ideal 2010 Reds win would look like, I think yesterdays game is as close a representation as you could get.

Seven scoreless innings from Cueto. Masset and Coco laying down the hammer in the 8th and 9th. Timely production out of the young offensive stars. Brilliant defense from Brandon Phillips (that double play he started was one of the headiest plays I can remember). Everything seemed to click yesterday, making for one of the most complete overall performances of the season. On more than one level, it was a win the Reds should look to build on.

Next up: While, in my last entry I touched on the importance of the Oakland series, rest assured the series' do not get less important as we move forward. The Cardinals have proven they aren't going anywhere. They have also shown they will beat the teams they are supposed to beat. Starting this weekend versus Cleveland, the Reds must prove they can do the same. And in addition to recent strong outings from Cueto and Mike Leake, there is plenty of reason to believe they can and they will. Jay Bruce has pulled his average up to .282 (his highest of the season), and should he continue at his current pace, it will take a lot of pressure off Phillips and Votto. They need Bruce as much as anyone on the team. My hope is that they stay within 1-2 games of St. Louis until the All-Star Break, and that the return of Volquez provides the shot of nitrous they need heading into the dog days of July and August. If he continues to throw a controlled 97-98 mph, I'm not sure anyone in the league will be adding a better pitcher for the second half.

- Reed Domer-Shank 6/24/2010

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